Union chiefs have announced they will end a crippling two-week nationwide strike in Guinea, saying embattled President Lansana Conte had given in to a key demand and agreed to appoint a new consensus prime minister.
Ibrahima Fofana, one of the country's two main union chiefs, said that although the strike would technically end at midnight on Sunday, yesterday was to be a day of prayer devoted to the more than 100 people who have died in violent strike-related crackdowns and protests this year. Most were shot by security forces.
Another union chief, Rabiatou Serah Diallo, said union officials and civil society leaders had proposed five names for the prime minister's post and Conte was expected to choose one of them, though it was unclear when.
Ousman Bah, a protocol official at parliament where some of the talks took place, said Conte would select one of the five by Friday.
Former Nigerian military ruler Ibrahim Babangida has been shuttling between union leaders and Conte this weekend in a bid to resolve the impasse, which fueled strikes and deadly violence in the tense West African nation for weeks.
In talks late on Saturday, Conte told Babangida he was ready to appoint a new premier and asked his opponents to propose five names for the post, Bah said.
Babangida is helping mediate the crisis on the part of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He met with Conte on Saturday and was due to meet with him again Sunday on the latest union proposal.
Diallo had vowed on Saturday that the latest round of strikes, which began Feb. 12, would continue until a new premier is named.
After an earlier strike last month turned bloody with security forces firing on demonstrators and killing dozens, Conte agreed to appoint a new prime minister with increased powers who many hoped would wrest the country from its plight.
Conte was supposed to name a consensus premier, but instead named Eugene Camara, a close ally who union leaders rejected immediately. The post of prime minister had been vacant since Conte fired prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo last April.
Accusing Conte of skirting the agreement by naming a confidant, angry youths took to the streets again as strikes resumed on Feb. 12. Conte responded by imposing martial law. The move included a curfew, roadblocks and military searches across the country.